Irresponsible gun use is something we have to think long and hard about, especially as parents. It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to keep our kids as safe as possible. For some, that means keeping our kids away from guns entirely. For others, it means teaching children early on to respect guns and, eventually, teaching them proper usage. But what happens when they go to a neighbor’s or classmate’s house, and the parents of that house own a gun? How do moms ask about guns at their kid’s friend’s house without being intrusive, upsetting responsible gun owners, or alienating their children from their friends?
While I am not against gun ownership entirely, I am fully against irresponsible gun ownership. And in my opinion, that includes any gun owner who does not properly store and lock their guns, or anyone who keeps fully-loaded weapons just laying around their home. This goes double for people who have children present. According to a 2017 report by CNN, guns kill nearly 1,300 United States children every year. Parents who believe it's their right to own guns must do a better job of making sure that right doesn't lead to an untimely death.
Kids are curious creatures by nature. If they know a gun is in the house, they'll probably do their damnedest to find it. For the most part, they simply want to see it for themselves or show it off to friends. But there are more than a few moments, as highlighted by the devastating statistic above, when they want to actually use it, either to "play" or show off or intentionally cause harm. Regardless, guns in the hands of children is never a good idea and frequently results in tragedy. That's why I asked moms if and how they ask parents about guns in the homes of their children’s friends, because while these conversations aren't necessarily pleasant, they are necessary. Here's what those moms had to say:
“Very early on when [my daughter] was about 6-months-old, I went on a play date to a home and the dad came home and put his gun on the table. Granted, at the time the kids were all babies and couldn't even walk. I was terrified of a weapon being in her field of vision, though, so we left. That day something flipped in my brain and ever since then I always ask. If the answer is yes, I don't care where or how it is kept, I won't let her go. That said, when I host people I'm forthcoming about the fact that we don't own guns and that guns are not welcome in our home, permit or no permit, concealed or otherwise.”
“Yes, I ask! I usually just send a text which makes it a little easier to bring up. I'll say something like, ‘I know this is kind of awkward, but I have to ask: Do you have guns in the home? And if so, are they kept locked up?’ My kids' safety is too important for me to be afraid of having the conversation.”
“I’ve only asked once, and I will when my kids go to someone’s house again. It’s very simple. ‘Do y’all have guns in your home?’ If they do, I ask where and if they’re secure. If they aren’t then we/they won’t be going. The one time I asked, the answer was yes and that it was locked in a box at the top of a cabinet/closet.”
“I always just assume there are guns in the house. I talk to my daughter about it. [I tell her that] if someone asks if she wants to see or hold a gun, the answer is no. Or if someone brings out a gun, to leave the room. Also, I'm not shy about expressing my feelings to other parents so they're very aware. And I've made it known that if I find out there's guns and they haven't told me, my daughter will not come back.
This past summer, my daughter was outside playing with the neighbor boy. When she came home, she said, ‘He showed me a gun and wanted me to put my hand against the end of it. But I didn't.’ When I talked to his dad, I found out it wasn't ‘real’ but ‘just a paintball gun.’ Anyway, he said thanks for letting him know because the boys know they're not supposed to have those out, let alone with another kid there.”
“I'm from Texas, so I just assume they have guns and say, ‘I assume your guns are locked in a safe?’ I also offer that information up front so if they come to my house first, I've already set the stage for that question.”
“I don't allow my children to go to other homes unless I've spent time with the other child and their parents. I want to know the family first, and it makes it easier to work questions on things like guns into conversation first.”
“Yes, we live in an area where the answer is almost always yes. I ask how they are secured and anything that’s not a biometric safe is completely a deal breaker.”
Writer's Note: Kate provided an example of a conversation she had with another parent, asking about guns.